Textile Exchange and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, convened by UN Climate Change, have launched a joint initiative to spur further a shift in the market towards the uptake of recycled polyester (rPET) and the associated reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs).
With 85 brands and suppliers already committed, the 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge serves as an essential catalyst for change in the apparel and textile industry. The rPET Challenge petitions the apparel industry to commit to increasing the global percentage of recycled polyester from 14% to 45% at 17.1 million metric tons by 2025. The Challenge continues the successful acceleration that began with Textile Exchange’s 2017 Recycled Polyester Commitment.
The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge asks brands to commit to the most ambitious uptake target possible. High percentage rPET commitments from brands are essential to reaching the 2025 45% recycled volume target and for building critical mass to reach an absolute 90% recycled volume share by 2030.
“Helly Hansen is committed to reducing its dependency on fossil fuels and its overall environmental footprint. We recognize that transferring to the use of recycled raw materials is an important action towards that commitment and are proud to be part of the founding cohort of this joint industry initiative.” Rebecca Johansson, Sustainability and R&D Manager | Helly Hansen
“Since our initial use of recycled polyester in 2005, we have adopted rPET in a huge way, focusing on adopting 100% Preferred Fibers by 2025. By using recycled polyester we not only create amazing, high performance garments but we lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and prevent plastic from ending up in landfill. “ Rachel Lincoln, Director of Sustainability | prAna
Why is this important? Polyester (PET) is the most widely used fiber in the apparel industry, accounting for around 52% of the total volume of fibers produced globally. The apparel industry accounts for around 32 million tons of the 57 million tons of polyester used each year. Currently, only approximately 14% of this comes from recycled inputs – predominantly from post-consumer PET bottles (Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2020).
Recycled polyester has a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventional. To stay within the 1.5-degree pathway as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we need to bring the share of mechanically recycled (or equivalent) fiber/filament within the polyester market from 14% to 90% by 2030. By 2025, rPET or equivalent needs to comprise at least 45% of fashion’s polyester market – this is equivalent to roughly 17.1 million metric tons of fiber (assuming a 3% growth rate of the apparel industry). The 17.1 million metric tons of recycled are intended to replace virgin synthetic feedstocks rather than cannibalize other fiber categories or justify increased industry growth.
Today, mechanically recycled polyester from plastic water bottles makes up the vast majority of recycled polyester; however, chemical recycling, textile to textile recycling and other innovative technologies will be a necessary part of reaching our goal. We recognize that more data is needed on the GHG reductions associated with other innovative synthetic alternatives and that even with less significant reductions compared to mechanical recycling, they will be a key part of a market transformation away from fossil fuels. We will continue to explore roadmap scenarios as impact data evolves and as the textile-to-textile recycling market matures.
What is required to commit? Companies committing to this initiative will be required to annually report their polyester consumption to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) survey, which will track progress across all participating brands towards the collective goal. All information entered into Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark survey is entirely anonymous and aggregated across all annual report participants to show progress. Company information will never be singled out and published without a company’s explicit request or consent. Brands are required to report once per year by the CFMB deadline, but they have the option to participate in the full benchmark in full or solely to report polyester volumes.
“At Reformation, we have always taken a strong stance against sourcing conventional synthetics (aka fossil-fuel fabrics). Taking part in the 2025 rPET Challenge is aligned with our brand’s circularity and climate action commitments and is a great show of cross-industry commitment for a more sustainable future. ” Carrie Freiman, Director of Sustainability | Reformation
Textile Exchange will report annually on the 2025 rPET Challenge, utilizing 2019 volume data as a baseline and a view to accomplishing both Textile Exchange’s and the Fashion Charter’s overall commitment to staying within the 1.5-degree pathway.
“The commitment to only source recycled polyester by 2025 is an important milestone on our journey towards recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030. This will help us decrease our impact on the environment, lowering our carbon footprint and saving resources like water, energy and chemicals. The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge is a great example of taking joint responsibility for the future of the industry.” Anna Biverstål, Sustainability Business Expert Materials & Processes | H&M group
“For over two decades, sustainability has been an integral part of adidas’ way of doing business. As part of our new strategy Own The Game, sustainability will play a key role. We are committed to only be using recycled polyester from 2024. This year we will launch the first running shoe that is made to be remade. By 2025, nine out of ten adidas articles will be sustainable: Made with recycled materials, made to be remade or made with nature.” – Katja Schreiber, Senior Vice President Sustainability | adidas.